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October, 2013 |

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Plumber: Put your kitchen sink to work with these accessories

Q: Dear Ed: You’re our favorite plumber and we need a few ideas. We’re replacing our counters and plan to install stone countertops with an under-mount-style sink. What current trends do you recommend we include with our new kitchen sink? — Mary, Idaho

A: Choosing a quality faucet is key. However, most kitchen faucets can easily be replaced down the road. Under-mount-style sinks can be another story.

Since the counter locks the sink in place, the kitchen sink you choose may stay in place for a very long time. So I recommend following the new trend of installing a new kitchen sink with built-in accessories. Stock accessories are also available for existing sinks.

But in your case, here are three popular custom add-ons for a new kitchen sink:

1. Bottom sink racks: These are drain racks that sit on the bottom of the sink bowls. They also protect sink bottoms to help your sink look new even after years of use.

2. Custom cutting boards: Specially designed to fit your sink profile, custom cutting surfaces allow you to prepare foods and easily sweep the scraps right into your disposer.

3. Saddle racks: Fairly new on the market, a saddle rack hangs over a sink divider wall. This allows one to turn that wasted space into a towel rack and/or a handy sponge holder, and that can really “clean up” the look of your new kitchen sink.

Master contractor/plumber Ed Del Grande is known internationally as the author of the book “Ed Del Grande’s House Call,” the host of TV and Internet shows and a LEED green associate. Visit eddelgrande.com or write eadelg@cs.com. Always consult local contractors and codes.

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Madisonville Chamber setting the table for third annual Gumbo Cook-off …

The competition will be heating up along the banks of the river in Madisonville as the Greater Madisonville Area Chamber of Commerce holds its third annual Gumbo Cook-Off. On Nov. 24, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., teams will be paddling huge pots of their finest gumbo recipes in hopes of taking home the first-place title in their category.

The contest is open to all – novice cooks to restaurant chefs – and will include several categories: Novice Seafood, Novice Chicken and Sausage, Novice Anything Goes, Restaurant Seafood, Restaurant Chicken and Sausage, and Restaurant Anything Goes.

Teams of six people or less can enter the competition for only $20 per team. The responsibility of each team will be to provide a minimum of five gallons of their finest gumbo on site and be ready to serve by 11 a.m.

Each team must provide their own tent and all their cooking utensils, including pots, pans and propane. Teams decorate their tents with creative themes and logos. Set up begins at 8 a.m. Teams also provide cooked white rice, which may be precooked – along with the roux – before the event.

The Madisonville Chamber will provide each team with four-ounce serving bowls, spoons and paper napkins for spectators to enjoy bowls of delicious gumbo. Each team will be given a number along with a category-labeled container.

At 1 p.m., a member of the chamber board will take samples of each teams’ gumbo and deliver it to the judges for tasting inside town hall. The winners for each category will be announced at 3 p.m. in front of town hall.

The chamber invites everyone to come to the cook-off for bowls of delicious gumbo. Entrance fees for each person wanting to sample the competition is two canned goods per person or $5 per person.

Applications for anyone interested in competing in the gumbo cook off can be downloaded off the chamber’s website, www.madisonvillechamber.org. For questions, contact Tanya Leader at Tanya@LouisianaNorthshore.com. The event can also be followed on the chambers facebook site www.facebook.com/madisonville chamber.

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It Slices, It Dices, It Looks Great in Your News Feed

NEW commercials for Bella, a kitchen appliance brand, highlight its coffee makers, toasters, juicers and slow cookers, but the product that gets the most screen time is one that Bella doesn’t make: a smartphone.

The advertising campaign, the first for the brand, which is owned by Sensio, is aimed at so-called millennial consumers from 21 to 36. The commercials encourage using smartphones to post about Bella to social networks.

In one new commercial, morning light fills a kitchen, where a woman in her 20s brews a pot of coffee and is buttering toast when a young man in boxer shorts and a T-shirt sneaks up from behind and embraces her. As they nuzzle and feed each other toast, she snaps self-portraits with her smartphone, and then uploads one to Instagram, a photo-sharing social network.

Another new commercial for the campaign opens with the same actress scrolling through photos of a dinner party on Instagram on her smartphone, and then flashes back to the dinner party, where three different guests are taking photos on their smartphones.

There is no dialogue or voice-over in the spots, which close with the Bella logo and a hashtag, #myBELLAlife.

The campaign, which will appear only online, is by MODCo Creative, an advertising and branding agency in New York. Social media strategy is by the Media Grind, a digital marketing agency in Santa Monica, Calif.

Online banner ads will appear widely, including on YouTube, Hulu and the Kitchn. The budget for the campaign, which is being introduced Friday, is estimated at about $500,000.

Introduced as Bella Cucina in 2004 with novelty products like a quesadilla maker, the brand shifted focus in 2011, changing its name to Bella and introducing a line of colorful and affordable everyday appliances like coffee makers and toasters.

Shae Hong, 36, who co-founded the company in 2003, said the shift two years ago was to appeal to his contemporaries, who he says are not the primary focus of higher-end brands like Cuisinart and KitchenAid.

“Everyone else was targeting baby boomers, and most of those heritage brands don’t really relate to younger consumers,” Mr. Hong said. “We decided we were going to stand for something else in housewares — we were going to become the brand for millennials.”

Sales of small appliances in the United States grew 15 percent for the first six months of 2013 over the same period a year ago, to $2.5 billion, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm. The biggest increases came from blender-mixer-chopper combinations (like those made by Vitamix or the Bella Rocket Blender), with sales up 83 percent over the period. Espresso maker sales were up 73 percent and juice extractors up 45 percent.

Advertising in the category typically highlights appliances’ features or the meals they produce, often employing so-called tabletop directors and food stylists to get every morsel just so. But Sara Rotman, chief executive of MODCo, said there was no food stylist used for the commercials, which avoided highlighting product features, too.

“Rather than specifically being about how to make a meal or what to do with a juicer, Bella products become part of the social experience and part of their life like another friend in the room,” Ms. Rotman said.

The object of the campaign, Ms. Rotman said, is to establish Bella as “much more of a lifestyle brand and human brand” over stressing functionality.

As for the prevalence of smartphones in the spots, Ms. Rotman said it would be unrealistic to depict millennials without the devices.

“If we had a group of 55-year-olds in the commercial tweeting constantly, I feel like it would be a disconnect,” Ms. Rotman said. “We encourage sharing but we think that portraying millennials in this way is authentic in and of itself.”

On Vine, a mobile app for creating and sharing short video clips, the brand is hiring popular users to post videos about Bella, namely Brittany Furlan, who has 3.3 million followers; Rudy Mancuso, who has 2.2 million followers; and Meagan Cignoli, who has 385,000 followers.

A website for the campaign will feature videos, images or messages that users have tagged on social media sites, including Pinterest and Facebook. On the site, visitors are asked to contribute videos or photographs about how they “keep it cool in the kitchen,” and one randomly chosen user who uses the Bella hashtag before Dec. 30 will win $2,500.

Debra Mednick, a home industry analyst at the NPD Group, said that most people who buy kitchen appliances are over 45, and that brands around a century old like Hamilton Beach and KitchenAid may resonate more with older consumers.

“So many brands are heritage brands that have been around a long time so their consumers are older,” said Ms. Mednick, who liked the idea of a brand’s taking aim at younger consumers.

“Because the demand has generally been older, trying to stir interest in the category from the younger age set is really smart.”

For his part, Mr. Hong, the chief executive, acknowledges he may lose newly acquired consumers to more expensive brands when they get older.

“Brands on the premium end like All-Clad and Cuisinart are pretty unattainable for this younger age group,” Mr. Hong said. “They might get those through their registry when they get married, but they aren’t usually buying at that price point yet.”

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Wiregrass Heritage Festival captures spirit of bygone era

Turn back the clock 150 years or so. What was life like for Wiregrass families back then? Visitors to Landmark Park Saturday, Oct. 26, caught a glimpse of just what that life was like during the park’s annual Wiregrass Heritage Festival. The Wiregrass Farmstead was abuzz with activity as docents put their knowledge to work demonstrating how families survived before the advent of modern farm machinery and household appliances.


Nothing was wasted on the farmstead. The scraps left over from making the family’s clothing were used to make quilts to keep the family members warm in the winter time. Short crosscut logs were split to make shingles for the roof of the family dwelling, the barn and other buildings often found on a Wiregrass farmstead. Even the drippings from food cook over an open hearth were put to use as the base for gravy for biscuits. Hair trimmed from farm animals were spun into thread to make sweaters, socks and scarves.

“The settlers had to be self-sufficient,” said John Johnson as he picked up the tools he would use to demonstrate the skills needed to make roofing shingles. “This area was covered by yellow pine and wiregrass. It had a vast expanse of trees. This part of the state had not been settled except around the rivers. There were plenty of trees in this area to harvest for houses.

“Pine was used for the shingles, and only two simple tools were needed to turn a block of wood into shingles. Typically, this was done by the adults, but children could do it. In fact, boys would often do it.

“The tools you would use are a simple maul carved from good hardwood. It would be 10 inches in diameter. They would cut it to a convenient length and then use a hatchet to carve it out.”

With a maul ready for use, Johnson says the next piece needed was the froe.

“A froe is a flat piece of metal, double beveled,” Johnson said as he described the tool that would be used to cut into the wood.

The handle for the froe would include a metal ring forge-welded to the metal blade. The handle, inserted into the holder, would be a shaved piece of wood.

With a round piece of wood positioned in front of him, Johnson took a seat on another piece of wood nearby. With the froe placed on the wood in front of him, Johnson used the maul to pound the froe into the wood. When he had driven it in far enough, he pulled the froe toward him to finish the splitting process that made the shingle. After demonstrating how the process worked, he handed the maul to Will Maund, 8, of Midland City. Johnson held the froe in place while his young helper used the maul the drive the froe into the wood. After a few blows, the shingle was split from the wood. Maund, son of Troy and Tonya Maund, had a keepsake of his visit to the Wiregrass Heritage Festival.

While docents in the Waddell Farm House had the benefit of using a wood-burning stove for their cooking demonstrations, Liz Olliff explained to visitors to the Watson Cabin how early settlers used an open hearth to prepare their meals. As a chicken hung from a cotton string in front of the hearth’s rosy fire, Olliff used a skillet to make small flat cakes made from cornmeal and water. Olliff also explained that vegetables from the farm’s garden could be prepared by using other skillets and a Dutch oven.

During a break in her presentation, Olliff told how she came to be the docent that cooked over the open hearth.

“When we (with husband Marty) moved here, I attended a Newcomers Club meeting. (Assistant park director) Kathie Moore was there,” Olliff said. “She talked about the park and volunteering. Marty had already brought me to the park. I was out here the next day (after the Newcomers Club meeting).

“I’ve cooked on the wood-burning stove. I’m from an area where we had one to heat the house. I was then asked to help the ladies who were cooking on the hearth. One time they couldn’t come, and I was asked to do the cooking on the hearth.”

It’s a spot she’s filled ever since. The utensils that she uses in her demonstration are from her personal collection.

“All I ask from the park is that they provide the cornmeal and water,” Olliff said as she greeted her next group of guests.

“Meals for the farmers were limited to a few items,” Olliff said as she began her demonstration. “They ate to survive and to be able to work. The cooking had to be efficient. The fire is the whole thing. You get it right, and you can cook anything.”

A popular question posed to Olliff during her demonstration concerned the chicken that was hanging in front of the hearth. She noted it would take all day to cook the chicken.

“To cook the chicken over an open hearth, you use cotton string,” she noted, “because it will not melt into the chicken. And, you keep the skin on the chicken to keep the meat together as it cooks. And, if you will notice, I have a small pan under the chicken to catch the drippings. They (early settlers) didn’t waste anything. They used the drippings from the chicken to make gravy.”

With each new group of visitors, Olliff offered samples of the cornmeal cakes and apple butter that she had made to go with the cakes.

A visit to the Waddell House provided other educational opportunities. On the front porch, Rose Szostak busily spun animal hair (sheep, alpaca, etc.) into thread. In the front room of the house, docents demonstrated treadle sewing, quilting, tatting and crocheting. Across the hall, members of the Wiregrass Dulcimer Club played familiar tunes on Mountain dulcimers. Other demonstrations included butter churning, chair caning and bottoms, clothes washing and woodstove cooking.

On the farmstead, visitors were treated to demonstrations of blacksmithing, cane grinding, corn shucking and shelling, a variety of woodworking skills, syrup making and hay baling.

The Wiregrass Heritage Festival provided a day filled with activities for the entire family.

The Farm-to-Table Dinner is the next event on the park’s calendar. It will be held Nov. 7 on the lawn of the Waddell House. Cocktails will be served at 5:30 p.m., followed by the dinner at 7. The meal, made from locally grown ingredients, will be prepared by Chef Kelsey Barnard, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York City and owner of Kelsey Barnard Catering.

Seating is limited to 100 guests. Tickets are $100 per person and can be purchased by calling Landmark Park, 794-3452. This is an official Houston County Farm City Week event.

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Benefits of eating in quality dinnerware

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Celebrity-store partnerships run risks

NEW YORK (AP) — When big-name celebrities pair up with big businesses, customers often believe the adage: You are the company you keep.

Rap artist Jay-Z is learning that firsthand. He has complained this week that he’s been unfairly “demonized” because he hasn’t backed out of his collaboration with Barneys New York after the luxury retailer was accused of racially profiling two black customers.

Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, has said he’s waiting to hear all the facts. Meanwhile, Barneys said on Tuesday that its initial investigation showed no employees were at fault in the two incidents in which customers complained that they were detained by police after making expensive purchases. The New York Police Department disputes the store’s account and said they were alerted by Barneys.

The controversy illustrates the problems that can arise when celebrities and companies team up.

The deals are lucrative: Companies like having big names on their roster and celebrities are always looking to expand their brand. Revenue in North America from celebrity merchandise lines, excluding products linked to athletes, reached $7.8 billion last year, according to figures available from trade publication Licensing Letter.

But when either side is accused of wrongdoing, the negative publicity can cause damage to the partner’s reputation.

“It literally shows you how vulnerable the celebrity business is on both sides of the equation,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at The NPD Group, a market research group.

More often, it’s the celebrities — not the stores — who are accused of bad behavior.

Late last year, for instance, Macy’s was pressured by some customers to dump real estate mogul Donald Trump’s line of $65 power ties after the billionaire verbally attacked President Barack Obama on social media following his re-election. One customer collected close to 700,000 signatures on a petition website signon.org. Macy’s stood by Trump.

Another example: home maven Martha Stewart. After being convicted on federal criminal charges of lying to prosecutors about a stock sale, she served a five-month prison sentence that ended in 2005. Kmart, which sold her towels and kitchen accessories until 2009, continued to carry her line.

But experts say that the subject of race can stir up even more emotions, so there’s less tolerance for slip-ups. “Everybody wants to be fair minded and not make generalizations about a group,” said Marty Brochstein of the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association, a trade group.

Celebrity chef Paula Deen’s empire, which spanned from pots to TV shows, began to unravel in June, within days of the public disclosure of a legal deposition in she admitted under oath to having used the N-word to describe black employees. In addition to losing TV shows and book deals, Deen lost valuable partnerships when Target and other retailers said they’d no longer sell her products.

Until now, Michael Stone, CEO of brand licensing agency Beanstalk, says it’s been the norm for personalities to have moral clauses in contracts that let merchants back out. But Stone, who has reviewed 100 celebrity contracts, says he hasn’t seen it the other way.

For Jay-Z’s part, it’s not clear what he’ll do as he faces pressure from an online petition and Twitter messages from fans.

Barneys is expected to start selling items next month by top designers, inspired by Jay-Z, with some of the proceeds going to his charity. Jay-Z is also working with the store to create its artistic holiday window display.

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SOFA plates up pieces from new Dinnerware Museum – Chicago Sun

By Dave Hoekstra
Chicago Sun-Times

October 30, 2013 5:42PM

BW Moulded Plastics (Pasadena, California, 20th century). Jack and Jill Chow Chow Feeding Train, ca. 1950s. train car dish, smokestack cup, conductor and engineer spoon and fork. BW Flexware plastic. Dinnerware Museum, Promised Gift of Margaret Carney and Bill Walker. Photograph courtesy of Bill Walker

SOFA, through Nov. 3 (Oct 31 is opening night preview, $50), Navy Pier’s Festival Hall, 600 E. Grand. $15. Visit sofaexpo.com


Keeping an individualistic spirit alive in dinnerware design

Article Extras





Updated: October 30, 2013 8:25PM

When you dine at the home of a dinnerware collector you are certain to get a piece of someone’s mind.

My Tiki-influenced Matson Lines dinner plate (early 1950s designed by Eugene Savage of tropical Covington, Ind.) and Ramada Inn soup bowls get me through any lull in conversation. I have one plate in my collection that depicts the correct grips of a curve ball, a slider and a spit ball.

Is there any better candlelight dinner chat than the beauty of the spit ball? Besides baseball plates, I collect old hotel dishware and I love my 1960s airline silverware (I bought all of it).

“Whetting Your Appetite” is a unique exhibit that features 46 pieces from the four-month old Dinnerware Museum in Ann Arbor, Mich. The exhibit is up Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at the 20th annual SOFA (Sculpture, Objects, Functional Art and Design) Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall. The museum is curated by Ann-Arbor based ceramics historian Dr. Margaret Carney.

Carney has a lot on her plate.

“We don’t just collect Grandma’s dishes, which we do collect,” she said. “We collect good design from famous industrial designers and work from contemporary artists. We collect fine art that’s 2-D and 3-D sculpture that references dining and dinnerware. The museum is based on memories. Every person gets excited when I talk about dinnerware because they have the food memories and in some cases they still have the dishes.”

Carney has a personal collection of more than 1,000 pieces of plastic, metal, glass, wood and paper dinnerware. The collection spans from Chinese Song Dynasty bowls (960-1279) to present time. (The SOFA exhibit includes a Power Point presentation that will show additional pieces of the museum collection and wish list stuff.)

Carney loves kitsch, so be on the lookout for a plastic children’s Chow-Chow Feeding Train from the 1940s.

“I bought that in San Diego in the original box,” Carney said. “I love it. The spoon and the fork are the conductor and engineer. The cup comes out so the child can use the smokestack on the train.”

A similar ideology from Ann-Arbor based Constructive Eating will be available in a drawing to raise funds for the museum. The small company blends fun with function.

“They make these charming plates where there’s fork lifts that lift your peas for males,” Carney said. “It’s a little sexist because they later came out with a gardening one. I’m bringing the male part. But like Chow Chow they want food to be fun and it’s a good design.”

The SOFA exhibit will include a swirling Roy Lichtenstein pop art design in a 1966 place setting from the Jackson China Company, Falls Creek, Penn., and primitive frontier dinnerware (circa 1955) designed by late jazz saxophonist Viktor Schreckengost who died in 2008 at age 101.

“In the last year we’ve got impressive donations from artists, collectors and relatives of famous designers,” Carney said. “We don’t have a physical exhibition space in Ann Arbor, although people do visit the office (by appointment in a home near the Ann Arbor Historical Museum.) We anticipate a building someday that would incorporate dinnerware in an amusing manner. We’re serious in that I would like it to be a scholarly museum. I have a PhD in Chinese ceramics.”

“It all fits in,” Carney said. “There’s almost nothing I’ve rejected. I don’t want things that are stolen. There was an article in the New Yorker about a Waldorf Astoria amnesty program. It was for anyone who wanted to send back [items] they had stolen from the Waldorf Astoria. They even stole Herbert Hoover’s picture. He used to live in the Waldorf Astoria. [The amnesty] included those little creamers. And if you go to eBay there’s a hundred different things you can get from the Waldorf Astoria. I won’t accept those.”

For more on the future of dinnerware collecting, voices.suntimes.com/category/arts-entertainment/scratch-crib/

Email: Dhoekstra@suntimes.com
Twitter: @cstdhoekstra

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